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Music Review: Otis Redding – Live On The Sunset Strip

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"Are you ready for Star Time?"

So asks the emcee at the beginning of Live On The Sunset Strip, a recently unearthed 2-CD collection of live performances capturing the incomparable Otis Redding at the peak of his powers in 1967, during an Easter weekend stand at the legendary L.A. showcase club the Whisky A Go-Go.

The same emcee then proceeds to rattle off a litany of songs from the man who brought you such hits as…well, you get the idea. They simply don't do it like this anymore, and it's a damn shame. Live On The Sunset Strip serves as an unforgettable reminder of just how it used to be done, though.

Although many of these performances have surfaced in bits and pieces over the years and in various forms, Live On The Sunset Strip represents the first live document of Redding's 1967 stand at the Whisky to offer the last three sets in their complete chronological order. For fans of both Redding himself, and of the great, lost art of the original southern fried R&B/soul style revue, this is nothing short of a gold mine.

Today, Otis Redding is remembered primarily for his biggest hit, "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" — a great ballad in its own right that has long since become a staple both on oldies radio and in karaoke bars. That song is nowhere to be found on this set — but there is actually good reason for that.

What is sometimes forgotten about the man who brought us that great ballad is that he was also arguably the most electrifying R&B/soul singer of his time.

At the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, for example, Otis is remembered by most who were either there or have since seen it on film, as one of the undisputed highlights of the legendary concert which also launched the careers of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. As Taj Mahal, whose band The Rising Sons opened the shows documented on Sunset Strip says, "Otis was it."

Here, backed by a ten-piece band led by saxophonist Bob Holloway, Redding displays ample evidence of just why he was held in such high regard. Although there is some unavoidable song repetition in the setlists (owing to the back-to-back nature of the three shows captured), what is heard here is the pure funky grit of one of the great soul men of all time, backed by a band that is as tight as a well-oiled machine.

For anyone in doubt, all you have to do is give just one listen to these guys firing on all four cylinders during "I Can't Turn You Loose" to learn just who wrote the blueprint for all the great R&B revues which followed — a template that would later be lovingly imitated by the likes of the Blues Brothers. On the last set, there's also a great little sax solo that allows the rest of the horn section to shine. You'd never know this was the third time it had been played (at least) in as many days.

Towards the end of that same set, when Otis says they've run out of things to play, the band breaks out the crazy great covers. Beginning with the Beatles' "A Hard Days Night" ("a song we've been itching to do," Otis explains), this hits a fiery climax with a smoldering ten minute version of James Brown's "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag." With its false starts and stops, Otis nearly out JBs the Godfather himself here.

Even on the Stones' "Satisfaction," the Otis Redding Revue gives Mick and the boys a solid run for their money. The band also specializes in the sort of rapid fire, non-stop delivery that Bruce Springsteen would elevate to a high art with the E Street Band a decade later. These guys play it like they mean it.

All of the hits (well, almost all of them) are here too — albeit sometimes in triplicate — from "I've Been Loving You Too Long" to Redding's take on "Respect."

On the former, Redding walks the same fine line between the desires of the flesh and the joys of the spirit that lies at the very heart of all the great soul men. As carnal as Redding's aching, heart-wrenching pleas of "don't make me stop now" may be, the delivery comes from the same sort of rapturous place you might hear in a southern church on any given Sunday.

And when Otis sings lines like "I've been loving you forty long years, and I'll love you forty more," for that moment anyway, you know that he means it with every ounce of sweat coming off of his brow. It's the same sort of feeling he later captured to such great effect on "Try A Little Tenderness," shortly before he left this mortal plane for good.

Yup. They simply don't do it like this anymore. And it's a damn shame.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com// Jet Gardner

    Great Glen now I’ll be humming “Sittin’ on the dock of the bay” all night.

  • http://www.themidnightcafe.org Mat Brewster

    Otis was the man. For those who only know “Dock of the Bay” you should really grab some of his other songs.

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com// Jet Gardner

    Sorry Mat but when it comes to getting something stuck in your head “Dock of the Bay” does it better than just about anything.

    I just walked into the kitchen whistling the end of the thing.

    …and I do have his other stuff
    (:^p~~~~~~~~~~~~`

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com// Jet Gardner

    Damn! I keep forgetting that Roger says I’m only allowed to comment on my own articles.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Mat’s right though Jet. You really should check out some of Otis’ other stuff…”Dock Of The Bay” merely displays one side of his talent. You’re missing a whole different side of the man if that song is your only yardstick…great as it is of course.

    Something, I forgot to add in this review is that my one complaint here is that the recording is a little flat…it sounds like it came straight off the soundboard, which probably also explains the lack of crowd noise.

    But as far as performance goes…this one’s definitely a keeper. Thanks for the comments guys.

    -Glen

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com// Jet Gardner

    Uh Glen???? re-read the last two lines of #3 again.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Gotcha’. Must have missed that line. You’ve passed the test after all, then.

    -Glen

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com// Jet Gardner

    I even dugg it-AND THIS THING DESERVES MORE THAN 2 DAMMMIT!

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    They’ll come Jet. But I appreciate both the Digg and you getting the conversation started. Now if you’ll excuse me, its 70 degrees in Seattle and barbequeing season has begun….

    -Glen

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com// Jet Gardner

    Give me five minutes to shave and I’ll be right there…

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Burgers on the grill dude. But you gotta bring the beer…

    -Glen

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com// Jet Gardner

    (burp)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Doesn’t sound like much of the beer will make it to the barbie…

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Nice one, Dread. LOL…

  • http://analogburners.com/ A-Burners

    For the record, “Respect” is HIS song, Aretha jacked it. Pretty sure he’s even got the writing credits. Great write-up anyway though!

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Understood…it’s just that Aretha more or less made it her own, and in pop culture history that’s always how it’s going to be recognized. Not to take anything away from Otis though. Not one bit.

    -Glen

  • Shlomo

    A correction must be made to the article…as it mentions this show was in 1967. It was actually in April of 1966 and I was there to witness it! He had Go-Go dancers and his full 10-pc band. It was phenomenol.